This year I signed up to do the Great East Swim. 5km in open water to support The Mintridge Foundation because they do some truly incredible work increasing sports participation and improving physical and mental health of young people.
It’s not that I just dislike the cold, but it makes my pain levels much worse. I can’t handle it like most people. Even in spring I dress as though I’m ready to tackle the Arctic Circle. This is because my life is a carefully balanced operation where I avoid things that exacerbate my pain so I can achieve the things I want to do.
I was super worried how the cold water would affect me. Whether I was even going to be able to do it, whether it would cause me to cramp up half way round – or even if I was going to be able to walk afterwards.
But with the 22nd June getting closer I couldn’t put it off for much longer, so I persuaded my brother-in-law Stu to take me – if things did go wrong I wanted somebody I knew there. He arranged a trip to Capernwray Diving Centre with his running partner.
That morning doubts crept in. A part of me thought I’d made a horrible, horrible mistake in signing up to this. That I’d completely lost the plot.
At speaking events I talk a lot about fear and its impact on our ability to perform. The same emotional response that can protect us from harm can also be disempowering – paralysing even. It can take a single thought and distort, manipulate and magnify it until the challenge in front of us looks impossible to tackle. Fear is powerful enough to chain us to the safety of our comfort zone and stop us from taking action.
But we don’t have to listen to it. We don’t have to let it rule our decisions or limit our lives. Confronting our fears head on is the best way to put problems into perspective, stretch past the limitations that we put on ourselves and redefine what we think we are capable of.
So that’s what I did.
I got in the water and I really enjoyed it. The cold wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought - although two wetsuits, dry socks and warm gloves probably helped. The lake was stunning and far more interesting than bobbing around in a pool, and I’m stoked that I did it. It is easy to listen to our fears, but when we do things that scare us it feels so exhilarating and so rewarding.
Having amazing people around us also helps. My family is the best; I was joined by my Dad, my sister, brother-in-law and my dog, and I can’t thank them enough for their support. Stu kept me company, kept me laughing and stuck with my tortoise crawl, my sister leant me her wetsuit and Dad was chief photographer.
Dad also fixed up hot soup in the camper for when we’d finished, knowing that this was where I was most likely to suffer. My goals, both personal and professional, would be so much more difficult to achieve without these guys and I am so enormously grateful.
I honestly can’t praise Mintridge and the work they do enough. The impact that they have on developing grassroots sports and giving opportunities to young people is extraordinary. You can learn more about the wonderful work they do here.
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I’ve always liked challenging myself. I’m not a fan of small, realistic goals; my philosophy is to set the bar high and find a way to achieve it. Stepping outside my comfort zone is a thrilling mix of excitement and apprehension, and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly we can adapt, stretching the limits of our potential and redefining what we think we are capable of.
This year I’ve pushed myself in a completely new direction and signed up to do a 5km open water swim for The Mintridge Foundation. If I’m completely honest, I am a teeny bit terrified and wondering how I am going to rise to this one.
my body to breaking point. Sure, I do a little bit of swimming to maintain general fitness levels, but the reality is that I have one speed only – slow – and I look a bit like a demented turtle.
stadiums in Shanghai and Italian summers. So yes, I think I’m going to find this part the hardest and I’ve got some thinking out the box to do to make sure my health is not affected.
So why am I doing it?
I want to prove to myself that I can. Setting new challenges teaches us more about ourselves; pushing the boundaries of what we think we are capable of is key to our personal growth and development. You can never know your full potential until you test it. Sometimes the biggest barriers that we face are the ones we put on ourselves and I want to live my life without self-inflicted limits.
And as well as my own personal aspirations I am proud to support The Mintridge Foundation. They do fantastic job at increasing sports participation and improving physical and mental health of children and young people. Sport is such a powerful vehicle for change – it transformed my life as a teenager and helped me come to terms with having a disability. It taught me how to deal with setbacks, build my self-confidence and really value my self-worth. So many people helped me get to where I did and I really want to put something back. Doing this challenge as part of Team Mintridge is awesome – it’s great to feel part of something bigger and it’s giving me the motivation to dig deep, keep getting up early and get swimming.
And sure, it’s a daunting. I always find that the hardest part is taking that first step out of my comfort zone. In that space outside things become clearer and it’s easier to figure out how to raise your game. We find a way to make things happen and get the job done. When we confront the things we fear, when we have our tenacity tested and when we push through it we come out much stronger on the other side.
So I’ve stepped out. I’m working hard and I’m slowly building up to getting out in the open water. Yes, I’m looking forward to the challenge. Yes, it scares me, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I’ve never been very good at quitting and I’m really looking forward to discovering the full measure of my potential.
I am taking part in the Great East Swim on the 22nd June. I would be super grateful for any support to my chosen charity The Mintridge Foundation, to enable them to continue to make a difference.
Communicating our ‘why’ has become super popular. It’s the purpose behind our behaviours, it’s the inspiration for our actions and it sets us apart from everybody else. When we can clearly articulate ‘why’ we are trying to achieve something then it not only gives us a lot more clarity around our vision, but it’s much easier to get other people excited and engaged about what we want to achieve.
Understanding your ‘why helps us to make sense of our purpose in life and come up with a plan to deliver it. However, it is far more powerful to go upstream of this and start by looking at the ‘who’. To really get to know yourself at an identity level.
Your identity is so deeply, fundamentally personal to you. The beautiful thing about humanity is the endless spectrum of differences that it has to offer. The only thing that makes us the same is that we are all different, and your identity sits at the core of who you believe you are. This is about your true self; a complex jigsaw with many pieces, each one contributing to the whole. You are more than just a job role, a label, or the sum of your past. You are a wonderfully complicated being with valid hopes and dreams, and how we see ourselves in the present is a reflection of who we have been in the past and who we want to be in the future.
In order to be the best at anything – the best athlete, the best professional, the best partner and so on – you need to be the best at being yourself. Only then can you become the most valuable person to the world you operate in. Reflecting, exploring and discovering who we are at the deepest level brings with it some pretty radical benefits.
Having a clear sense of our identity affects how we live our lives – how we think, how we feel, how we behave. When we see ourselves for who we truly are and embrace all our strengths, flaws and capabilities we gain clarity and direction. This is the first step to living a more authentic life. It allows you to stay true to your values, pursue the things that are meaningful to you and helps you make the choices that are consistent with your definition of success. It’s the golden key that unlocks our potential and enables us overcome limitations.
And answering questions about the WHY, WHAT and HOW become much easier. When you understand WHO you are, you are able to really clearly understand and articulate WHY you want to pursue certain causes and then work out HOW you are going to get there.
I like to think of identity as a fountain; when we start focusing on who we are at an identity level it cascades down across all other areas, affecting our drivers, our belief system, the choices we make and how we communicate our vision.
So how do we figure out who we truly are?
Understanding Your Identity
This involves digging deep and developing a global understanding of what it means to be you. It’s the traits and characteristics that make you who you are. It’s your values, beliefs and passions. It’s your purpose, abilities and behaviours. It’s your strengths and your weaknesses, your roles and responsibilities. It’s the life experiences that have created the person you are today, and it’s the choices that you make every day.
Try to capture the essence of who you are. Like any self-awareness activity, it’s important to come at this from a non-judgmental place and assess yourself objectively rather than attaching criticism or value judgements.
Choosing Your Identity
Our identity is not permanent, fixed or unchangeable. It’s not the sum of our past or something that constrains who we are. Sometimes our identity can be quite limiting, especially if we have developed negative thoughts about ourselves. We get to choose who we want to be and what we want to do with our lives.
Take any goal – instead of looking at what you want to do, focus on who you want to be. This shift in mindset makes it easier to develop the habits and behaviour change that are required to help you get to goal.
Understanding our identity is a revolutionary step forward, and one that encourages us to start living more authentically. When our behaviour is aligned with the fundamental core of who we are we are on our way to becoming unstoppable.